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Matt Rosenberg

Top 10 Ancient Capitals

By January 28, 2007

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Along the lines of my fantastic Largest Cities Through History resource, LiveScience.com has an interesting feature on the Top 10 Ancient Capitals. Here's a list of the top 10; what do you think? Should any capitals be added or do any not belong? Share your thoughts by clicking "comments" below...

10) Cahokia (Illinois)
9) Xi'an (China)
8) Great Zimbabwe
7) Thebes (Egypt)
6) Tenochtitlan
5) Cuzco (Incan Empire)
4) Babylon
3) Constantinople
2) Athens
1) Rome


January 29, 2007 at 6:33 pm
(1) Emmy says:


February 2, 2007 at 4:05 am
(2) Thomas says:


February 2, 2007 at 4:19 am
(3) Vivek Khadpekar says:

Taxila (now in Pakistan); Basra (Iraq); Carthage (now Tunisia); Patliputra (now Patna, India); Damascus.

February 2, 2007 at 5:37 am
(4) Tanja Cilia says:

Pity you never mention the oldest free-standing monuments in the world in any list. These are in Malta, Europe.

February 2, 2007 at 8:24 am
(5) dennis says:

el mirador largest city of prehistoric maya

February 2, 2007 at 8:47 am
(6) Susan says:

Jerusalem – for its significance.

February 2, 2007 at 10:38 am
(7) Pierre says:

The capital of the Aztec empire Tenochtitlan?


February 2, 2007 at 12:00 pm
(8) David Schoen says:

Teotihuacan,Tikal,El Mirador.

El Mirador was the largest city of the pre-classic Maya; Tikal the largest of the Classic Maya.Teotihuacan the largest city of Mesoamerica, 100-600 c.e. All were Great Capitals with montumental arcitecture.

February 2, 2007 at 12:25 pm
(9) Lucas Walsh says:

I cannot believe Jerusalem didn’t make the list! This has been the religious capital of the world for many centuries.

February 2, 2007 at 5:33 pm
(10) David Schoen says:

I had forgotten to mention a very great city of the most ancient world – Caral (Norte Chico) in Peru, the center of a lost civilization with a sprawling temple complex in 3000 b.c.e. I think Cahokia is a stretch with all the great cities of Mesoamerica & Peru to look to,not to forget the unfolding discovery of the great Chachapoya empire’s capital city,and the discovery of a large Chachapoyan Cloud Fortress in the last few weeks.

February 2, 2007 at 7:33 pm
(11) erik says:

YEREVAN- armenia

February 3, 2007 at 8:53 am
(12) Daniel says:

Phnom Penh of ancient Kambuchia (Cambodia)

February 3, 2007 at 1:47 pm
(13) Adolfo says:

Ancient is too broad of a term for a listing like this.

February 3, 2007 at 3:51 pm
(14) Rob Cerello says:

You made some interesting choices; but you omitted some that might have been considered. Never mind absolute larget, one might intrduce the cncept of most important to the largest area. In this context,one could then city Alexandria, Egypt; Sumer, Lagash and Akkad; Miletus in Ionia; Syracuse in Sicilia; Persepolis, Susa and Ekbatana for their riches; Sodom and Gomorrah for their early wealth; Jersualem whch some mentioned; The Phoenician capitals of Sidon, Tyre, Carthage and Beirut; Damascus for its history;
and the cities of the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa confederacy, plus the capitals of Krete, Etruria and
so forth. Thanks for the list…

February 4, 2007 at 5:33 pm
(15) MFWood says:

Interesting list. Nice to see some of the North and Central American cities named as well as African. One problem with the Greek city of Athens though… Greek civilization was base don the Polis or city-state, which meant each city was in fact a nation of it’s own. Moreso than any other civilization, the Greeks were seperate nations so to speak. Babylon was undoubtedly the capital of the later years of Mesopotamia and other civilizations living concurrently with the Greeks had their capitals, but each Greek city state wa in it’s own right a capital. As the inter-city wars raged at pretty much every time period when the Greece peninsula was not under invasion from outside, even though Athens being the largest and most technologically advanced should not be mis-titled the capital. If at any time Greece had a capital it would have been the short period of time following the Peloponsean wars in which Sparta conquered Athens. Even then, the rule was short lived and only to be quickly replaced by the following Macedonian conquests of Philip and then shortly after Alexander.

February 4, 2007 at 6:42 pm
(16) Fawzi Audisho says:

How about Nineveh, the capital of Assyrian Empire in Mesopetamia (Iraq today).

February 19, 2007 at 9:16 pm
(17) 30000 says:

30,000 population! It’s just a villiage. It may be ranked top 10000. Be professional. There are many better choices than this.

February 26, 2007 at 4:58 pm
(18) mark weer says:

gao(songhai), thessaloniki( macedonia), and boston and new york and houston

August 28, 2007 at 1:59 pm
(19) Dan says:

I think Nineveh was the first greatest ancient city of the world. Great palaces, great gates, great gardens, the first library in the world! universities!!!. Nineveh was always in competition with the brilliace of Babylon to the south until it was destroyed. I think it should be added to this list :D .

November 2, 2007 at 12:53 am
(20) Balash says:

I agree. List is full and no need to add something.
By the way, YEREVAN (old name IRAVAN) is just 300-400 years old.
Established by RAVAN-gulu Khan – leader of Iravan Khanate, west Azerbaijan. At the moment Armenian Republic.

December 29, 2007 at 12:23 am
(21) Wicaco says:

Nice list, but I would add Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, the capital of the ancient Anasazi. The Chacoan knowledge of astronomy and its incorporation in their architecture is amazing.

Nan Madol in Micronesia and Mu’a in Tonga deserve honorable mention, as well.

September 24, 2008 at 7:40 pm
(22) eyob says:

Axum Ethiopia?

October 26, 2008 at 3:00 pm
(23) hussain says:

Baghdad was the largest city in the world for over 500 years !

November 10, 2008 at 11:47 am
(24) BloodofPatriots says:

Greece had no capital to speak of. Various cities served as capitals of different alliances, but that’s about as far as you can go. Athens really doesn’t belong on this list at all, let alone at such a high ranking.

How about Persepolis, the magificent capital of the Persians, instead?

Also, we can speculate that Cahokia was the capital of the Mississippian culture, but without any written records, there’s no way to tell.

I suggest substituting Karakoram as capital of the Mongol empire, or one of Japan’s historical capitals.

June 20, 2009 at 9:27 am
(25) Ancient Greece 4 ever says:

I believe that ancient Greece is the best of all !!!

June 20, 2009 at 9:33 am
(26) Ancient Greece 4 ever says:

If there is someone who says that Ancient Greece is not awsome and Acropolis isn’t good then it’s good for that person to die !

February 9, 2010 at 9:05 pm
(27) maddie says:

how did greeks geography effect what they could grow?

January 14, 2011 at 1:16 am
(28) Hagop says:

A list of Ancient capitals can’t be complete without Yerevan (Erevan) the capital of modern Armenia.

The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by king Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain. Yerevan is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.

In 2011 Yerevan will turn 2793 years old. Why don’t you visit Armenia and be part of the celebrations.

If Balash does not know his history then he should at least stop distorting the history of one of the oldest cities in the world – Yerevan!!!

April 4, 2011 at 11:17 am
(29) George says:

There wereother ancient cities like Cuzco and Tenochtitlan and Palenque in ancient America civilizations.
In Africa there were Thebes,Cirta and Timbuktu for me and then then in Asia there are Mecca-Damascus-Antioxeia-Patliputra.
I think Athens must become first in this list…
After that Susa,Persepolis,Ekbatana,Babylon must also be mentioned
I cannot speak for Chinese and Indian cities too because i have no all day to speak… Big civilizations-too many cities.
For me one more military capital witch must be reffered is Karakorum(Mongols)
Nineveh is the most ancient city that is has to be mentioned
With Babylon too.
After that i always admirred Karchidon.
Tyre was important, too.
Then i think Kyoto was an important capital

April 27, 2012 at 6:16 am
(30) Djurabek says:

where is Samarkand??? this is more than 2500 years old city, which was a Capital city from Asia to Europe…

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